Greg Skinner (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a communications consultant and marketing columnist who specializes in the kids market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked Skinner to do some browsing on our behalf and report on some of the interesting kids sites as seen from the eye of a near-kid himself.
There’s a strange thing about a lot of Web sites today: They suck, or at least appear to. Funnily enough, a lot of times they aren’t half-bad, but they’re sure not perceived that way. The root of this conflicting opinion isn’t on the Net; it’s everywhere else.
There’s a dual evolution happening. On the one hand, you have a medium evolving at light speed, and on the other are users on their own learning curve. With two developmental paths, reactions, expectations and points of reference are based on familiar elements. Pace is set by TV and video games and quality by the elements in the original production.
Web sites as a genre are newborn compared to an elderly medium like TV and, oftentimes, when they support existing television programs, they have trouble bridging the gap. Relatively speaking, of course, with low resolution images, monster file downloads and a slow pace, even the best sites sometimes seem substandard.
The best sites-of the ones that owe their origins to television shows or movies-go with the strengths of the original and leverage them to the hilt. There’s a continual injection of new elements and a concerted attempt to knock down the old standards. But, it’s the recognition of what made the original so good in the first place that gives it a platform for lift off.
On the upside, these days you’re dealing with a generation that’s waaay more tolerant of the things they haven’t encountered previously. The apparent contradiction between familiarity and newness should never stifle creativity because it’s the unexpected that inspires and novelty that titillates. Sites that inject and offer up something new will never be far off the mark when they appreciate that all creations will be judged next to their predecessors.
Web sites are now starting to flex their muscles in ways that conventional media like print and TV cannot (that is, accessibility, control and interaction). As users and the technology they employ catch up, that critical edge will fade further and further into the past.
Reboot. Normally it means, ‘bummer, got to start this sucker again.’ In this case, loud and clear, it says endless possibilities.
You don’t enter the ReBoot domain right away and, unfortunately, its attempt at building anticipation falls kind of flat. And then when you actually get there, nothing truly eventful happens. Hey, where are the rewards? Don’t panic: this site runs hot and cold in places, but the goodies are there.
The site concept is a tour of Mainframe, an excellent idea bolstered by the presence of Enzo from the show, and the maintenance of ReBoot vocab. Little vid screens and unexpected sound bites put you into the site, as opposed to just passing you through it. Site differentiation and cultivation of the environment are both super-duper solid.
Wooo boy, images take a long time to load and the superlative pics just never seem to arrive. Audio and video clips are found everywhere and lend good support-if you’ve got the time. Either way, there’s time for trips to the fridge.
This site really boogies when it offers up background info. Everything you ever wanted to know about the series is at your pinkies: character profiles, geographic data. Even experienced ReBooters can learn a thing or two. Bits of info you never had before are like gold, and the whole thing is satisfying.
Gosh! This site even g’es out of its way to offer useful tips to child users. Really a nice, nice touch, too bad it’s completely illegible. Olive green text on dark grey means bionic eyes couldn’t penetrate.
Unfortunately, this site comes across as really flat. It lacks the immediacy, rich colors and dynamic element of its TV brethren. A tough gig for sure because comparisons and critiques are inevitable.
The birthday club and feedback options are nice pieces of work because they capture that all-elusive demographic info everyone seeks. Links to Alliance and Irwin Toy bolster support. ABC and the Canadian YTV also get their due. Original sketches are pretty cool although conspicuous in their refinement.
The potential of this site is infinite because it’s an established conduit to the juicy bits your average ReBoot-head wants but d’esn’t have. The superstructure is actually really well constructed, but it needs some new blood (it seems content hasn’t been updated in eons). Build it to capitalize on specific episodes and it becomes compelling to the nth degree.
Right away this site has big sh’es to fill because it supports some pretty trendsetting animation. And there are inconsistencies where some sections are fat and then others waif-y thin. But overall, it d’es a good job by appeasing you with a nice system and gobs of insight.